Tony has had that damn phone for two weeks and it was mocking him. He threw it in the trash a couple times only to pick it out a few minutes later. He’s staring at it. Wanting it to go away. He hates it. But he can’t throw it away. Because doing so is like throwing them out. They deserve it. At least that’s what he thinks when he’s angry. But when he’s not he stares at the phone like it’s his life line. His phone a friend. But they’re not friends. Not after the war. He picks up the phone. His mind lights up with an idea. Before he knows what he’s doing, he’s dialing the number. The phone rings three times before it’s answered.
“…Tony.” Steve’s voice hitches a little.
“I want to talk to him.” Tony says flatly.
“Talk to who?”
“Barnes. I want… I need to talk to him. Put him on.” Tony all but demands.
“He’s in cryo. We can talk.”
“No. Go wake him up.” Tony says getting up and pacing. “You owe me this Steve.” Tony says as a way of reminding him. Because honestly he did. Lying to him about it for years? He deserves at least the chance to talk to the man who did it.
“I don’t think… “.
“I will fly to Wakanda if that’s what this takes, but I don’t think doing it face to face is a good idea. Wake him up.”
“How do you…” Steve cuts himself off. Tony would know where they are. “Who have you told?” Steve asks concerned
“No one, dumbass. Go wake him up. I will come over. Don’t think I won’t.”
“Fine.” Steve says getting to his feet. “I don’t think this is a good idea.”
“You owe me this.” Tony reminds him “You owe me a lot of things.” Steve doesn’t answer that.
“Give me a few minutes. I’ll call you back.”
“I’m calling if I don’t hear from you in one hour.”
“Okay.” Steve hangs up the phone. Tony paces his office for what feels like an eternity.
“Who was that?” Sam asks while the rest of the group listens.
“Tony.” He says softly
“He called.” Clint says half surprised. They all knew he sent the phone as it was a group decision. The letter was going either way, but they all decided.
“What’d he say?” Sam asks.
“He wants to talk to Bucky.”
“What?” Clint asks “No!”
“Why?” Sam asks “Maybe this is Tony’s way of getting answers or making peace. What’s wrong with it? He can’t hurt him. Bucky would know to hang up if it gets to him. You owe him it for not telling him.” Sam points out.
“He said that too.” Steve says looking down “And he’s right.”
“He knows where we are?” Wanda asks.
“He won’t say anything?” Clint asks
“I have a feeling he never lost us.” Steve says “No, I don’t think he will. He hates me, hates us, but I don’t think he wants us in jail for life.”
“He’s trying to get the charges dropped.” The king says walking in. “And he has known you were here the entire time. We’ve talked about it.”
“You told him?” Clint asks.
“Didn’t need too.” T’Challa smiles.
“Wait, back up.” Sam says “Charges dropped?”
“Yes.” T’Challa smiles. “He hates you, yes. But is trying to get you off with the best of intentions. Don’t want to give you false hope but he has a high probability of getting it. Mr. Stark is brilliant after all. And what brilliance can’t get you, money can.”
“He’s bribing them.” Steve says disapprovingly.
“I said no such thing.” T’Challa says disappointed. “Merely stating he’s hired the best legal team money can buy. Working all hours, doing everything he can legally, I might add. But that’s neither here nor there. I do believe we have a super soldier to wake up?”
“How’d you... “.
“I know what goes on in my kingdom, Mr. Barton and I probably monitor you more closely than Mr. Stark ever did.” If that wasn’t unnerving… “Shall we?” T’Challa smiles, genuinely. They follow him to the room where doctors are waiting.
Within a few minutes, Bucky opens his eyes with a sharp breath.
“Steve?” Bucky asks looking around “How long was I under?”
“2 weeks.” Steve says with an apologizing tone. “Tony called. He wants to talk to you.” Steve says being direct.
“Oh....What do I say?”
“You say what you think.” T’Challa says “Lying will only make your situation worse. I suggest only the truth no matter how much it hurts either of you. He deserves that, and so do you.” Bucky nods slowly as Steve dials the number.
Tony’s been pacing for 42 minutes. Looking at the clock every couple of seconds. He actually jumps when the phone rings, but answers it immediately
“Hello?” He asks hesitantly.
“Tony.” Steve says. “We’ve woken him up. He’s here.”
“I want to talk to him alone. Just to make sure you aren’t feeding him answers.”
“That’s fine.” He hears Barnes in the background and his breath catches in his throat.
“Okay. I’m going to give him the phone.” He hears some shuffling as Tony pushes down the panic. This is it.
“S…Stark?” Barnes’ voice is hesitant.
“Yeah.” Tony clears his throat. “Yeah.”
“Good to know you sound as nervous as I feel.” Barnes huffs slightly.
Tony chokes back a laugh. “Tends to happen.” Tony comments.
“They’re gone.” Barnes says “I don’t know how to prove it though.”
“You don’t need to prove it. You said it, so I believe you.”
“Haven’t lied to me yet. You seem to be you. Well not you, but you.”
“That didn’t make sense.” Bucky comments.
“Well, you’re not you from the 40’s. And you’re not the soldier. At least I hope not. But you’re not the same man you were before. Which makes you you, but not you. Did that help?”.
“Kind of.” Bucky says “I think I get it.”
“What… did you want to talk about?” Bucky asks hesitantly.
“I want to talk about you.”
“Okay. I figured.”
“Do you remember doing it?” Tony asks, no clarification needed.
“Do you remember all of them?”
“Most. But your parents the most. I watched them and you a long time before I killed them.” Bucky pauses not knowing what else to say.
“What did you see?”
“Howard… hurting you. And Maria.” Bucky doesn’t know if he should have said that, but T’Challa said to be honest.
“Didn’t see that one coming.” Tony mentions and Bucky let’s out a breath.
“Does Steve know?” Bucky can’t help but ask.
“That Howard hit me?”
“No.” Tony says “He loved that man. More than he ever loved me. Why ruin both Starks for him?”
“Because he was an abusive asshole who deserved what he got.” Bucky spits out and there is silence on the other end.
“I wouldn’t go that far…” Tony mumbles “Jail would’ve suited him very fine. But…”
“I’m sorry about Maria.” Bucky says “For what it’s worth.”
“Hmm. So, you do still have feelings. I was wondering when you beat the shit out of me if you could understand why I was angry.”
“I did. I didn’t want to fight you, but I didn’t want to die.”
“I wouldn’t have killed you.” Tony mumbles.
“You blew off my arm.”
“You grabbed my arc reactor!” Tony throws back.
“The thing in your chest?”
“It used to keep me alive, before I had it removed. Long story, but My dad’s friend, who was more like a dad to me, ripped it from my chest while I was paralyzed. Nearly died. With my PTSD anxiety ridden ass you can’t blame me for panicking. Even if it wouldn’t have actually killed me.”
“Fair. I’ll tell Steve I deserved that one. That’ll be a fun conversation.”
Tony snorts. “Isn’t it always?”
“He doesn’t see that I’m different.” Bucky comments “He thinks I’m the same kid from Brooklyn. I’m not.”
“You were tortured and used as a Hydra weapon for 70 odd years. Of course you’re different! Steve is a dumb ass for assuming you’re the same.”
Bucky snorts this time. “Tell him that.”
“Next time I see him, I’ll be sure to,” Tony comments with a smile. “I’m sorry, by the way. For everything except blowing off your arm. I know it wasn’t you. I know it was Hydra. I knew it too, but I didn’t care. I saw you murder my parents. And then you were right there and Steve knew. And he didn’t tell me. And I wanted someone to pay. And… I haven’t’ told anyone this, but I probably should.” Tony says and Bucky listens calmly “I made a machine. BARF- Names not important. But is lets you relive traumatic memories. It’s supposed to eventually help you overcome them. Great for PTSD and shit, like I needed that. But I showed it off at MIT. I showed everyone the last time I saw my parents alive. How I didn’t actually say the words I should have and how they left on bad terms. And then 2 days later I’m watching a video of them being murdered with their murderer and my ex-best friend standing next to me. And all I saw was red. I know you were being brainwashed and all that shit but I was so mad. And I’m sorry for attacking you. I shouldn’t have.”
“You should have.” Bucky says “You were right to.”
“What?” Tony asks.
“Any sane person would do that exact same thing.”
“I don’t know if it was the right thing.” Tony says.
“Did it get your anger out on me?”
“Then it was.”
“You’re weird.” Tony says with a snort “Does that mean I’m forgiven?”
“I was never angry at you. I deserved it.”
“No, you didn’t. Okay maybe a little, but it was mostly Steve who deserved it.”
“I’ll give you that.” Bucky says “That was a dick move. You deserved to know.”
“Did you read the letter he wrote me?”
“Yeah his cockamamie bullshit ‘I was right and I’m sorry you were wrong and got hurt getting in the way of doing what I know was right’. Bullshit. The accords are needed. And did he tell you that you would have been sent to an American psych center where they’d have a say in everything you do and your treatment and none of you would be fugitives from the law? The last 24 hours would be undone, and everything would go away if he signed.”
“…No.” Bucky says “He didn’t.”
Tony snorts “Figured.”
“What were the accords? Steve said something about ‘dangerous’ ‘control us’ ‘not good’ 'people with agendas'.”
“Yeah, well if he fucking read them he’d know what they are and that we’d get to revise them before signing anything official.”
“But enough Steve bashing” Tony says. “I really want you to be happy with him.”
“And what if I’m not?”
“Then you do what’s best for you, no matter the outcome for Steve. Be selfish. You deserve that. I have another question.”
“Why’d you kill my mom?” Tony’s asks, voice tight.
“She was a witness and it was the ideal time to strike. He had the serum, he was driving with no other cars on the road. She was with him, unfortunately, but to the soldier she was just a casualty. It didn’t matter.”
Tony nods. “You would have killed me if I was in the car.” It wasn’t a question but Bucky answers anyway.
“Is he still there?”
“Yes. But… only with the words. I can block him out now.”
“Is it like… two people in your head? You and him?”
“…Yeah.” Bucky says softly.
“No one knows that, do they?”
“You should tell them. It could significantly help with your treatment. Medicine, therapy and in time it could be just you.”
“I don’t want to,” Bucky whispers.
“I’m scared,” Bucky says, barely above a whisper.
“Of doctors? Or is it because of the problem itself?”
“Both…and of Steve.”
“I’d tell you there’s no need to be, but you won’t listen, so I’m not going to. What I am going to tell you is that it’d be best if you did it anyway. I know what that’s like. It’s exactly like when I told exactly zero people I had PSTD. I’m not an idiot. I know I have it. People know I have it, they just ignore it. But people like you… or like who you’re supposed to be, I guess. Cause let’s be real, no one really knows you anymore. Which I’m not saying to be harsh.”
“I find the truth refreshing.”
“Me too. But as I was saying, they like you so they’ll help. They won’t ignore you, especially Steve. He’ll want to help as much as he can. He may be overprotective of his friends, save me, but he cares about you. He wants you to get better.”
“I want you to get better.” The words surprise both men.
“Thanks… I guess? I want you better. If I feel you deserve the hate, I will only hate you when I know it’s you. But I dunno, I kind of like you. Which is weird. I expected this to be very awkward.”
“That makes two of us. I don’t know why everyone seems to hate you,” Bucky says earnestly. “Honestly, you’re a lot better than like all of them here. The girl, the red one, she’s… bitter and mean and rude.”
“Wanda. You get used to it.”
“From what I gathered, you’ve done nothing wrong.”
Tony laughs. “That’s a first.”
“That someone doesn’t blame you for something that isn’t your fault?”
“That’s scary accurate,” Tony comments.
“From my training I’ve learned to pick up small details. They seem to blame you for everything, but I don’t see how the accords were your fault.”
“They weren’t,” Tony says with a snort. “I can make a lot of things disappear. I’m great with the media. I know my way around it and how to stop rumors before they even start. What I can’t make disappear are documents the United Nations wanted, gone. That’s very far above me. But I agreed with them, so instantly it’s my fault.”
“They’re assholes,” Bucky says.
“Tell me about it.”
“So, why are you trying to get them off on their charges?” Bucky asks.
“How do you know that?”
“T’Challa told them, and in turn told me.”
“Hmm… honestly? I don’t know why I’m doing it.”
“You miss them.”
“Not them. I think I miss the idea of them. Of what we once should have been. But even then, it wasn’t right. I wasn’t on the same level as them.”
“Eh, nothing compared to 70 years of torture and brainwashing.”
“It wasn’t like that completely.”
“What was it like?”
“I was under for most of it,” Bucky says. “I was woken up for almost 1 month and half or less per year. So, I wasn’t really awake and being tortured. They tortured me yes, and brainwashed me, yes. But that was only for a year or so? I’m not really sure how long. But after that, unless they worked on my brain, it wasn’t torture. It was nothing.”
“I was tortured.” Tony doesn’t know why he says that.
“They forced my head under water and just before I passed out they would pull me out, but only long enough for me to breathe before I’d be under again. They did that multiple times. I refused to build terrorists weapons.”
“Gave in and told em I would.”
“You didn’t.” It’s not a question.
“No,” Tony smiles. “I didn’t. Built the armor, blew em all to hell.”
“I thought so too.”
“How’s the guy that fell out of the sky?” Bucky asks.
“Rhodey.” Tony’s sighs.
“That’s his name?”
“You probably know him as James or Colonel Rhodes, even though that’s now a former title.”
“Paralyzed from the waist down.”
“Damn. Tell him I’m sorry.”
“Not your fault...sort of. But I will. He’ll be pissed at me for calling you.”
“Over-protective?” Bucky asks.
“You could say that.” Tony sighs. “When he’s here he fusses over me because he couldn’t always be here with his attachment to the army. And because I got kidnapped and he was a few cars behind me and couldn’t stop them and spent 3 months trying to find me with no luck. Kinda makes someone over-protective.”
“Makes sense,” Bucky nods.
“Do you have any questions for me?” Tony asks.
“What?” Bucky asks shocked.
“Well, I’ve asked you a bunch about my parent’s death, so if you had any questions about me, I’ll answer honestly. And this stays between us, if you want it all to of course.”
“How did you cope… with the death?”
“Drugs and alcohol. And some science. Which is not a very good combination. Almost killed myself, twice. Once wasn’t on purpose though.” Bucky doesn’t interrupt. “I don’t blame you, and you shouldn’t blame yourself either. But I know you’re going to anyway. I feel the same about a lot of things.”
“What do you blame yourself for?” Bucky asks. As he asks, the question surprises him.
“The list is long, but to list a few: Ultron, The Civil War, many people’s deaths from my weapons, Wanda’s family, the Battle of New York...“
“How the hell is New York your fault?” Bucky asks completely bewildered. “I wasn’t awake for that, but I read about it. That was all Loki.”
“He used my power source,” Tony admits.
“If you didn’t invent it, he couldn’t have used it?”
“Something like that.”
“That’s stupid,” Bucky says. “That’s really the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“Thanks,” Tony says dryly.
“No, I mean it. You created something to keep you alive and you were trying to use it for clean energy, right?”
“So, if you were using it for good, you can’t blame yourself that he used it for bad.”
“Can you say that again?” Tony asks.
“Just repeat that.”
“It’s stupid that you think it’s your fault because he used your inventions to hurt people.” Tony is smirking, but of course Bucky can’t see it. “I don’t… oh,” Bucky realizes. “You’re throwing that back at me, aren’t you?”
“Yup.” Tony pops the p.
“Do you really blame yourself for New York?” Bucky asks
“Yes. I really do. But when I heard you say that… Hydra made you the weapon you were. Hydra used you, the weapon to hurt people. It’s the same thing. If I’m not at fault for New York, you aren’t at fault for all the shit they made you do.”
“I don’t like that.”
“What? That I used your words against you?”
“Yeah. It makes me feel guilty.”
“For believing it true about me, but not about you?” Tony asks. “Yeah, I feel the same.”
“What a pair we are,” Bucky says and Tony snorts. After a pause Bucky says, “I like you.”
“I like you too. Which is surprising given our circumstances.”
“Yeah,” Bucky agrees.
“Do you have any other questions for me?” Tony asks.
“Are you happy?”
“In general? No. Right this very moment? I’d say yeah.”
“How close are you to getting me free?”
“You?” Tony asks. “Dude, I got you off ages ago. With Hydra and brainwashing it was pretty easy to convince them. Most people are good, despite what Steve thinks.”
“I could go to back to the states?”
“Yeah, you could come here right now and it’d be perfectly legal.” Tony says
“Can I?” Bucky asks.
“You want to come here?” Tony clarifies.
“Yes. I don’t like Wakanda. And I want American doctors. And I want to get better and you understand me. He believes I’m the same kid from Brooklyn. You understand that I’m not. That neither of us are.”
“I mean, you’re more than welcome to come whenever you want. You’re always allowed here. Like any Avengers past present and future. None of you ever have to worry about having a home or food. So yeah, if you pack your bags, I’ll pick you up. But, I just want you to be sure that’s what you want. To leave Steve. So, after we hang up, I’ll call back in a week when you’ve thought about it. If the answer is still yes, I’ll be there in a matter of hours. No matter what Steve has to say about it. Fair?”
“Yeah,” Bucky nods. “That’s more than fair.”
“Anything else you want to ask?”
“No. And if I think of something, I’ll talk to you in a week,” Bucky says.
“Exactly. I think I’m good too. Call you in one week. Don’t go under cyro. Live with them. Think about it. Call you in a week.”
“You’re welcome…” Tony pauses.
“You can call me Bucky,” he says smiling.
“You’re welcome Bucky. And thank you, for talking to me.”
“You’re uh welcome,” he says and they hang up. Bucky exits the room to find everyone in a room a few doors down. Steve couldn’t hear him. He worried about that, but is glad they left. He enters the room.
“Bucky. How’d it go? You were in there for a while.” Steve says.
“I like him.”
“What?” Clint exclaims.
“Yeah, I do too” T’Challa says. He seems to be the only one smiling.
“After what he did to us? To you?” Steve asks shocked.
“We talked about it,” Bucky explains. “I didn’t understand at first, but now I think I do.”
“He blew off your arm!” Steve shouts in disbelief.
“I deserved that for touching his arc reactor,” Bucky says.
“He told you that?” Steve asks in a whisper.
“Yeah. And I agree. Even though I didn’t know the story behind it, I shouldn’t have done it. I didn’t know he had issues with it.”
“So just like that?” Steve asks “All’s forgiven?”
“Yeah. That’s what happens when you talk to someone calmly and rationally for more than 2 seconds. I actually really like him.”
“If you knew the real him....“ Steve starts.
“No, Steve. The man I spoke to was nothing but real with me.”
“And you know that how?”
“70 years of practice being able to read people’s voices and emotions, that’s how. That man was being genuine.”
“That’s a first,” Clint says with a snort.
“I like him more then you.” Bucky says, looking at Clint.
“I helped you!” Clint says in outrage.
“One action does not define a man,” Bucky says.
“Bucky, Clint is a good man,” Steve says.
“Is he? All he does is yell, complain and talk shit about a man who isn’t even here to defend himself. Are those characteristics of a good man?”
“That’s just him now, due to the circumstances.”
“A man is only as good as his words,” Bucky quotes. No one says anything in response. “T’Challa, is there a room I can stay in for the time being?”
“Of course,” the king replies.
“You’re not going back in cryo?” Steve asks.
“No, I think I should be awake from now on.” T’Challa smiles as Bucky follows him out of the room.